It was a bittersweet program celebrating the summer of work by the Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area Youth Conservation Corps crew Tuesday night.
Although the crew had a great summer working hard, completing projects, learning and having fun in the process, longtime director Jennifer Schneider announced that this will likely be her last summer at the helm of the popular program since she and husband Jason are moving to South Dakota.
Members of the 2017 crew spoke at the beginning of the program about their experience, and all said they learned how to work hard, gained confidence in their capabilities and made good friends during the weeks they worked on park projects.
“It was a really good experience. It was like my first real job,” crew member Brenden Lundberg said. “ I did things I never would have been able to do.”
Mylee McArthur, who worked in interpretation in the visitor center, said she learned how to deal with people and learned a lot about Native American culture, area history and public speaking.
Crew leader Madyson Jones said she was able to do things she never thought she’d be capable of doing at the beginning of the summer, adding, “I had the best boss in the world (Schneider).”
Aly Schneider worked for the natural resource crew and said she learned a lot about “our back yard” and made a lot of friends during the summer.
Also reporting were Brianna Brumwell, Kathryn Robertson, Mikel May, Mat Savage and Carolina Madrigal. Not attending were Ethan Hessenthaler, Carson Robison and Austin Grohman.
Seasonal Resource Division workers Ian Aper from Atlanta and Matt Olsavsky from Toledo, Ohio, worked with the crew this summer and attended Tuesday’s program.
Schneider said as explained in the federal YCC manual established by former Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell, the YCC program is not a work program, it is a program for youth to work, learn and play in the park. They added that the Bighorn Canyon program is known at the regional and national level.
“I don’t see them as cheap labor, I see them as future leaders,” Schneider said of her crew.
As explained in a PowerPoint presentation prepared by Mady Jones, the 2017 YCC crew worked on a number of projects including a native plant flower bed project at the visitor center, building fence with the Resource Division, cleaning the Horseshoe Bend Campground, cutting a new trail on the Lower Layout Trail, and working on the Upper Layout Trail.
The crew helped redesign the flower beds at the visitor center, refresh the beds and plant 150 new native species plants.
At the Horseshoe Bend Campground the crew removed 60 garbage bags of weeds, cut down 30 dead and dying trees, and, working with a Wyoming Conservation Corps crew, built, installed and painted 60 to 75 picnic tables and some benches.
“In the photos there’s a common theme,” Schneider said, “lots and lots of smiles. They are always smiling, even when it’s 104 degrees and you’ve been building trail.
“They work longer and harder hours than most and do things they never thought they could do. And they learn about the environment and sustainability.”
Schneider said she has enjoyed leading the program for the past 15 years.
“I’ve enjoyed it immensely,” she said. “I’ve grown as an individual and as a leader, and I’ve become more compassionate. I hope the program will last into the future.”
Chief of Interpretation Christy Fleming said YCC crew members have learned a work ethic and responsibility under Schneider for 15 years and the community should appreciate Schneider and
the work she has done with the youth.
By David Peck